The uncrowned king of the Austrian grapes, Grüner Veltliner, has once again proven its right to reign over the country’s winemaking at the IWSC in-situ wine judging in Andau, Burgenland - organised in partnership with Austrian Wine. “I would go as far as to say that today we enjoyed one of the best flights of white wines that we have judged professionally. It was a fantastic flight of Grüner Veltliner,” said Cat Lomax, IWSC judge and Independent Retail Consultant.
With the majority of vineyards planted with white varietals, it is no secret that Austria is primarily a white wine country. It is also a well-known fact that Grüner Veltliner, Austria's most acclaimed indigenous grape, can deliver high-quality wines of real depth, structure and complexity. However, it was Grüner’s cellaring potential that truly amazed the judges. “The quality standard was high across the board, but it was the capacity of ageing which I think really took us by surprise as a panel,” confirmed Cat Lomax.
One of the gold medal winners was a mature 2016 Grüner Veltliner from Kremstal, an “extremely graceful” wine, with “fantastic concentration and weight, beautifully framed by a refreshing steak of vibrant acidity”. Another gold went to a 2017 Grüner from Wachau, which impressed the judges with its “amazing aromas with honey and lemon notes leaping from the glass” and its rich inviting palate.
Nonetheless, the younger and more approachable styles of Grüner Veltliner also performed exceptionally well. In addition to their splendid collection of 6 golds, Grüner wines earned 40 silver medals and over 40 bronze – astonishing results for one grape varietal.
As for the overall performance of the Austrian white wines, it was nothing short of brilliant, with 14 gold medals, 96 silver and 127 bronze medals awarded to the whites, including both dry and sweet styles. “There were some white flights where all the wines got either silver or gold! We know how rigorous the IWSC judging is and how hard it is to earn a medal. Usually, there are some wines which get no medals at all, so the Austrian whites did incredibly well,” said Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, the IWSC Judging Committee Member who oversaw the panels in Austria.
While Grüner Veltliner is leading the way for Austrian wines around the world, a few other whites deserve the attention of trade and consumers alike, our judges emphasised. The Riesling flight was amongst the highlights of the tasting. “There was a real prettiness in the Rieslings we tasted - lots of blossom; zingy lime citrus notes with a really pleasing balance and freshness,’ the judges said awarding Austrian Rieslings with 3 gold medals, 20 silvers and 9 bronzes. A Riesling wine from Kremstal received one of the highest scores of the Austrian in-situ judging – a stellar 96 points, with our experts praising its “delicately elegant aromas of benzene, flint and stone”, as well as its rich, textured palate with tingly freshness.
The best-performing Grüner and Riesling wines came from Kremstal, Wagram and Wachau regions which once again confirms their potential. “Wachau flight was exceptional with very high-quality wines showing typicity, fresh vibrant complex fruit and elegant finish,” said the judges.
Speaking of the international grape varietals, the IWSC judges pointed out the fantastic quality of the Austrian Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. “The level of fruit concentration was high and overall, the wines showed a skilful winemaking approach with integrated acidity and alcohol,” the judges said about the Sauvignon Blanc flight.
Following the in-situ judging, the IWSC experts expressed a firm belief that Austrian white wines have a bright future on the global market. “I think there’s a lot that Austrian white wines have got going in their favour when it comes to reaching quite a mass market potentially,” said Freddy Bulmer, IWSC judge and Buyer at The Wine Society. “In the UK, we see a few popular styles of whites – for example, Marlborough Sauvignon, or Pinot Grigio. There’s no reason why an inexpensive Grüner couldn’t fit into the same market area.” That said, stylistically Grüner Veltliner can offer consumers whatever they are looking for, Bulmer continued: “Whether you’d like a quick refreshing glass of white wine, it’s there, but if you want to look for a little bit more detail in your glass, a little more depth – often it offers it as well.”
The key message to the producers, according to the judges, is, to get it right in the vineyards. “Austria is already doing fantastically well in that sense because we know how well they do with organic viticulture. Healthy fruit – and then trying to preserve what you gain in your fruit during the winemaking – that’s so important,” said Bulmer.